Americans reconsider Korean proposal on missiles

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Washington said yesterday it was prepared to take seriously a North Korean offer to scrap its nuclear missile programme, and that it would work with Moscow to pursue it.

Washington said yesterday it was prepared to take seriously a North Korean offer to scrap its nuclear missile programme, and that it would work with Moscow to pursue it.

The US assessment, made after a visit to Moscow by a State Department official, could clear the way for President Bill Clinton to postpone plans for a National Missile Defence system (NMD), known as "Son of Star Wars".

The North Korean offer was sprung on the US in July by President Vladimir Putin of Russia, who came from a meeting with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, saying he was prepared to abandon the missile programme in return for technological help.

Washington treated the offer as a Russian ploy to boost opposition to NMD, and US scepticism appeared justified when a South Korean paper quoted Mr Kim as later saying the offer was "a joke". Now, though, America has changed its tune.

Pentagon advocates of NMD have said it should be operational by 2005, the earliest, it was believed, North Korea would have a missile able to hit the US. To meet that timetable, construction would have to start this autumn; Mr Clinton is due to decide within weeks whether to approve it

With the presidential election two months away, he cannot afford to let Democrats appear soft on defence. Yet patchy test results and Russian warnings that the NMD would breach the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty have placed him in a quandary. Downgrading the perceived threat from Pyongyang could clinch the argument.

Comments